Gazing Upward
  • Miscarriage and Loss
  • December24th

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    This morning, I awoke to cheerful exclamations of “Santa Claus is coming TONIGHT!!!”

    This year is the first Christmas that has invoked true wonder and excitement in our children.  From anticipating Santa’s midnight visit to celebrating Jesus’ birthday with our gifts to each other, the kids have a gleam in their eyes that draws all of us adults into high spirits.  It makes me recall those few magical moments in childhood when I became so caught up in the beauty of the Christmas lights, the harmonious swell of the Christmas carols, and the  fascination of Jesus’ birth. When awestruck wonder transcended the reality of the moment, and the emotion was so intense I couldn’t determine whether it was extreme delight or pain.

    As an adult, those moments of joy (as C. S. Lewis names them) come fewer and farther between.  Maybe it’s because we have so many distractions and responsibilities.  Maybe our expectations have become tainted by past disappointments.  Maybe we feel weighed down with emotional, physical, or financial burdens.

    Christmas hasn’t always been an overwhelmingly joyous occasion for me.  Years ago, when Scott and I were broken up over the holidays, I moped and pouted while listening to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” on repeat.  For weeks straight!

    Two years ago, while visiting my parents here in North Carolina, I spent Christmas Eve in the Cary ER with a sprained ankle. And I fought back tears throughout the whole trip because Carter was going through a phase when he wanted nothing to do with me and wouldn’t even let me walk into the room where he and Daddy were playing.  It was probably my most difficult Christmas holiday to date.

    This Christmas, there are people around the world who are enduring tough moments.  In just the last day, I’ve learned of a critically ill 3-year-old girl who is hanging onto life by a thread. And a woman my age who lost her husband Thursday night to an 11-year cancer battle, left with their 2-year-old son and a baby due in February.  I have a friend who miscarried months ago, and their due date of December 26th looms without assurance of another baby to come.

    With these weighty situations on my heart, I clicked on BabyCenter.com’s calendar of pregnancy milestones. Each Saturday, I move into the next week and read of new progress that my lil’ bean is making. Today, the site says this: “Your baby sees light.”

    Though his/her eyes are still fused shut, our baby can sense light and may even move if a flashlight is shown at my belly.  Physically and biologically, this milestone seems amazing.  But the spiritual significance struck my aching heart even stronger.  How incredible and appropriate that this baby should sense light today…the eve of a miraculous birth when the Light of the World came to earth to dwell among us.

    It was this reminder of Jesus’ light that brought me encouragement this morning. Not just for myself, but for each person who feels trapped in darkness this Christmas.  Whether you’re mourning loss of life, your marriage, your plans, etc., there is a Light that will illuminate your next step. He may not reveal your whole path, but He will guide you that next step further.  And it’s usually that next and immediate step that seems so paralyzing.

    I supposed what I wanted to share this morning is that we can become numb and blind to the wonder and light of Christmas.  We can miss it as much in our bliss as in our pain. And some individuals are hurting so much that a celebration seems almost unbearable.  On this Christmas Eve, I’m praying that as we meditate on the most perfect Gift ever given, our minds will be illuminated with insight and emotion that transcends our current distractions or troubles and transports us to that magical place where we can experience true joy.

    “Silent night, Holy night!

    Son of God, Love’s pure light

    Radiant beams from Thy holy face,

    With the dawn of redeeming grace,

    Jesus, Lord at thy birth;

    Jesus, Lord at thy birth.”

     

    God bless and Merry Christmas,

    Kelley

  • June8th

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    Two days ago, a close friend shared her exciting news of being 12 weeks pregnant with their first child! Our circle of friends was whooping, squealing, and celebrating this precious life.

    This morning, she found out that she has miscarried. When I read her message, my heart sank to my stomach. Even though I’ve lost 5 babies through 4 miscarriages, I felt like my world was rocked at the discovery of my sweet friend’s loss. How could this happen? Why is life so unfair? I feel shocked and burdened with sadness for her and her husband.
    I didn’t deal well with my grief in all of the losses (see “A Beautiful Mess” post on sidebar). But a few verses that comforted me daily after losing the twins last year were Lamentations 3:22-23. The entire chapter is refreshing, but these two verses were like drops of water to a dehydrated soul.
    “The unfailing love of the Lord never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is His faithfulness. His mercies begin afresh each day.”
    Each morning when I opened my eyes, I would feel crushed as the weight of the loss rushed into my consciousness. But these verses of Scripture reminded me to search for His mercies. Every day, there was something to carry me through until I fell asleep that evening. It might be an encouraging note from a friend. Or a funny commercial that made me laugh. Or the sight of a beautiful hummingbird hovering outside my kitchen window. Each day, God faithfully delivered a sign of beauty, hope, love, or joy. Even through the sorrow and tears, I could see His hand pulling me forward one step at a time. We didn’t need to go faster. Just morning by morning. And that’s what kept me moving forward.
    I pray that my dear friend will be comforted by His daily mercies as well. The pain may still linger for awhile, and there may be tears on her pillow at night, but joy comes in the morning. Great is His faithfulness.
  • March16th

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    Sitting at the kitchen table, I hid behind the Rice Chex box so my 13-month-old son would not see the tears streaming down my face. Occasionally, I would poke my head around, singing “Peek a boo!” while he munched away at his cereal on his high chair tray. But the tears welled up too quickly, the sobs became more audible, and the grief within me became so physically crushing that I had to run to the hall bathroom to avoid startling my child.


    That was March 18th, 2009. A year ago today (the 16th), I miscarried our twins at 8 weeks. On one hand, I wasn’t shell-shocked because it was our fourth miscarriage. I knew all along it was a possibility. On the other hand, I was absolutely devastated. I had wanted twins since I was a child, and being that my husband is a twin, we were both pretty excited. What made our loss so difficult was coming to grips with the unlikelihood of us ever conceiving twins again.
    Over the next few months, I prayed. I poured over Scripture. I read and reread emails, cards, and notes from family, friends, and even strangers. But I often pushed back the tears. In fact, after March 18th, I didn’t cry much at all. And I thought I was coping. I thought I was allowing God to heal my heart and my womb. I acted strong. Because after all, that’s what Christian women do. We have hope. We have redemption. We have a Counselor. We have a Healer. But do you know what I didn’t have? Conviction.
    In July, I decided I wanted to talk with a Christian counselor. Even though I wasn’t preoccupied with our loss, I somehow felt like I hadn’t grieved well. The wound still felt fresh. Julie carefully and lovingly revealed my altered view of God. I had good theology, but I didn’t believe it. Somewhere along the line, viewing the difficulties I had experienced through my self-created filter, I had changed my beliefs about God.

    If God really loved me, He would have performed a miracle and saved the babies. If God was really good, He wouldn’t allow me to be faced daily with my shattered dream when a close friend conceived twins. If God was really sovereign, …

    At first, I felt defensive. Of course I believe God is good! I certainly believe God loves me. I never doubt his plans for me. But as I prayed and allowed the Holy Spirit to stir in me, I realized Julie was correct. I asked for eyes to see beyond the grid I had placed before me. And the Lord and I began a months-long journey of rediscovering His unfailing love. For me.

    Looking back, the false beliefs just crept in, and I didn’t even realize it. But I’ll tell you how.

    I didn’t want to appear as a mess before the the Lord. Much less other people. Especially Christians. I didn’t want to acknowledge that I had questions. I believed in His faithfulness and unfailing love because I knew with my head that His word is true. But the belief never traveled to my heart. I didn’t engage God. I never asked Him to show me and teach me and work out His truths in my innermost being. Having been a Christian for over 13 years, I thought it would appear weak to wrestle with God. And so I pushed forward with His words on my lips but a soul hurting and unsatisfied.
    A local teacher and national author, Fran Sciacca, calls this paradox “godless godliness” and defines it as the appearance of godliness without its power. According to Fran, godless godliness most often rears its ugly head when we’re faced with obstacles in life. My experience – case in point.

    Here’s a more day-to-day illustration of how godless godliness can play out. One of the most agreed upon challenges among stay-at-home moms is achieving a balance of spending time with the kids while also keeping a clean house. On the days when my house is swiffed, organized, and crumb-free, I feel good about myself. But my son receives less of my attention and time. My house looks good. But my relationship with my child has not grown.

    We can function similarly in our relationship with the Lord. We can read our Bibles, attend church or bible study, and quote Scripture in conversation, emails, or blog posts. From an outside view, our walks with Christ might look pretty darn good. Like we have it all together. But if we spend too much time on the framework of faith without putting our heart into it, we can go through a whole day “looking good” but completely missing intimacy with God. We pretend all is well but miss out on walking in His power, strength, and joy.

    And can I be frank? I believe our Christian culture has put this pressure on us. We only share our struggles when they’re in the past. When we can say we’ve already dealt with them and we’re back in a good place. We shrink back in horror when someone confesses a current doubt or shares an ongoing weakness. As I’ve written before, authentic Christianity isn’t covering up our wounds with proverbial band-aids but rather allowing a hurting and unbelieving world to witness the rawness of our pain and the restorative power of a compassionate, loving God. Yes, it’s uncomfortable to see someone struggle. But instead of simply feeding them Scripture (which is still helpful and appropriate at the right time), we should encourage one another to take our issues to the Lord and dialogue with Him. Engage Him. There is freedom to wrestle. There is hope that grows from presenting your concerns to God. There is healing in laying your heart bare before the Lord. He sees it all anyway. There is beauty in the mess of digging deep to know the God you love. You don’t have to have all the answers. And it’s okay to admit you’re struggling. Faith is messy.

    Jacob wrestled. David questioned. Martha had her priorities wrong. The disciples didn’t get it. Even Jesus asked for a reprieve.
    Our relationships with the Lord aren’t always spotless and perfect. The danger in simply pressing on during trials without engaging the Lord is that unbelief sneaks in. Lies can take root. And the changes are so subtle that you may not even be conscious of them. Take comfort in the fact that you can be totally known, understood, and loved by the Creator of the universe. And He delights so much more in your efforts to hash it out with Him and reach a new level of intimacy than He does in your ability to maintain godly living without His presence and power in your life.
    I have been burdened for months to share what I have learned because I don’t want others to make the same mistake. Don’t convince yourself that going through the motions is the same as being a strong Christian woman. Tackle those fears and doubts head on and allow convictions to take hold. If you feel like your faith is messy, remember that in God’s eyes, it’s a beautiful mess.

    As I stared at our ultrasound pictures earlier, I smiled. Only because I finally fought with the Lord and worked out my unbeliefs do I once again BELIEVE that He is faithful and loving. He has carried me and Scott through the pain and loss, and my renewed convictions have cultivated gratitude and joy in my heart. I finally sorrowed well, with the grace and guidance of an amazing Father. And because of that, I can look back on my pain and feel blessed for it. Sweet friends, embrace faith’s messes and know they’re worth it.

  • April17th

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    Have you ever prayed for something so desperately that your heart physically ached? This was how I felt when Scott and I (and many others, THANK YOU!) were praying that our twin babies would survive and escape miscarriage.

    I know there really are no “unanswered” prayers. God just doesn’t always give us the answer we want. But in our eyes, we see these “No’s” as broken dreams and, in our limited human understanding, the wrong answers.

    Don’t you love it when God proves us wrong? When, in time, He reveals one more step in His glorious plan for your life? When you catch a glimpse of the pain, suffering, and grief He saved you from? You are reminded that God is good and sovereign and holy and omniscient and trustworthy.

    We finally received the results of the chromosome testing that was performed after our loss. Unfortunately, the chromosomes were not distinguishable for the smaller baby, so we do not know anything about our Lil’ Bit. I must admit that I am very sad and disappointed about that. The tests from Peanut reveal that he was a boy. A boy with Trisomy 11. That means that he had one too many chromosomes, with the extra one being on chromosome 11.

    You’ve read about Trisomy 18 on Boothe’s blog (Keeping Awake), and Trisomy 21 is Downs Syndrome. Trisomy 11 almost always results in miscarriage. And any trisomy baby that goes full term is typically born with many physical defects that result in suffering for the baby, death shortly after birth, and agony for the parents as they watch their precious child struggle and eventually slip from this world into heaven. I cried numerous times as Boothe and Conor Farley went through this with Copeland, and I can’t imagine ever facing that same situation. I am not saying that I am glad I lost our little boy, but this outcome seems like a gift and a blessing compared to the alternative. While Copeland was a blessing and gift to her parents and to many people, I am not sure I could endure the pain and grief if faced with the same.

    I am also encouraged that there was nothing we could have done to help the babies survive. More shots would have accomplished nothing. I am encouraged that, at least with this miscarriage, it wasn’t my body fighting the fetuses. Our little ones were destined to reach Jesus’ arms before their mom’s and dad’s. And from our new, informed perspective, I am so very grateful for that.

    We don’t always get to see why some of our hopes and dreams don’t work out. But we know that God hears our voice. And He loves us. And in the words of Garth Brooks, “some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

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  • March28th

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    After hearing our news of losing the twins, one of my close friends emailed to share what she had recently learned in her bible study. A girl had shared that when she cried out to God for hope, guidance or in pain- she asked him to send her love letters. We both loved this analogy! In my friend’s words, “His love letters to us are all around us every day, things that we can see and touch- that God has given us as gifts.”

    Immediately, I saw Scott and Carter as love letters to me. They bring me joy and love beyond what I can even articulate. Despite the pain of losing five babies, Scott and I can look at Carter and know that we will still feel incredibly blessed even if he is the only child we ever have on earth.

    As I surveyed my life over the last couple of weeks, I have seen God writing more love letters to me in various fashions and through numerous channels.

    Some of these love letters have come through books. Jesus Calling, a devotional by Sarah Young, consists of daily “letters” written to the reader from the viewpoint of Jesus. Some of these letters have resonated so deeply with my pain and struggles that I felt like Jesus was truly talking directly to me, validating my hurts and reminding me of His love and faithfulness.

    God has used people to send his love letters. Notes, emails, meals, flowers, prayers, and phone conversations from family and friends have brought incredible comfort and sweetness! Scott and I have felt so loved, and the outpouring of support and prayers has been a beautiful image of God’s family and His abounding love.

    While I watched for God to perform something big during my pregnancy, He did something just as great in my loss. A woman who had prayed with me a few weeks ago sent an email with what she felt were God’s words to me. It is too personal to share here, but it was written as a letter to me, reminding me of His love and presence and of His great plan for my life. Reading it three times in a row, I just bawled. I NEEDED to hear that He loved me so deeply and was with me. Yet, within minutes, I began doubting that the words were really from Him. So what did our Great God do?? He gave the SAME message to another woman who disciples me! Abbie called a couple of hours later, delivering the same message and terminology of how God was specifically going to use this trial in my life, how He loved me, not to push Him away, etc. Quite honestly, I was blown away!

    I have to admit my tendency to become very skeptical when someone says God has spoken to them. But I can vividly remember numerous times when the Holy Spirit imprinted on my mind or heart a passage of Scripture, an image, a specific thought, even a gentle rebuking! No, I didn’t audibly hear His voice. But the messages were unmistakably from Him. I was reminded this week of one such instance…it occurred after our 2nd miscarriage. I was full of tears and without words. Sitting on my bed, I placed my Bible in my lap and just cried out to God, “Lord, I don’t even know what to say or ask.” The following passage came to mind, and I flipped open to read this:
    Psalm 63:6-8
    On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night.
    Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings.
    My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

    Mind you, I had never read this psalm before! With sudden clarity, I knew that God was trying to say, “Kelley, I am so pleased that you are simply remembering Me as you sit on your bed and grieve. Let me remind you of my strength and faithfulness to uphold you if you continue to seek Me as your Helper and Comforter.”  I love how He always meets you wherever you’re at.

    And finally, a sweet acquaintance from college found my blog, and having also just experienced a miscarriage recently, directed me to a website called Sarah’s Laughter. This amazing ministry provides support, resources, devotionals, encouragement, and prayer groups for women facing infertility or child loss. It’s hard to see shared heartaches as evidence of God’s love. But I believe He demonstrates His love to us by connecting people who can relate to each other’s experience, allowing us to see that we’re not alone in our situation. I have a couple of friends whom I have connected with simply through our shared experiences of miscarriages, and it has been so validating and uplifting to walk through our grief together.

    Maybe you will find some of these resources as a love letter from God to you. We all experience painful times…breakups, deaths, infertility, job loss, divorce, affairs, illness, and various trials. I am not sure I could endure the hard times if I didn’t know the love and peace that comes from my Savior, Jesus Christ. He truly SAVES me day by day from despair, isolation, bitterness, anxiety, and all the consequences of living in that darkness. I hope that this analogy of love letters from our Savior will help all of us recognize the message God sends us through His gifts and blessings. We are indeed loved by the Creator of the universe and the Author of life. And at the end of a difficult, tear-filled, heart-wrenching day….that makes all the difference in the world to me.

    With love and gratitude,

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